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Sat, Feb. 22

All About Pets: Wildlife around us!
All About Pets

One large javelina — wandering along the road like he owns it. (Bill Grunklee/Courtesy)

One large javelina — wandering along the road like he owns it. (Bill Grunklee/Courtesy)

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this column about an Abert’s Squirrel, which appeared in my yard, tore apart my dog’s toy and ran off with a mouthful of the stuffing. I wanted to follow up with a response I received and also on a couple of related items.

A veterinarian, Dr. Jim Tilley, now retired, responded to my column with a most interesting comment. He said it is dangerous for squirrels and other animals, including birds, to use this artificial plastic stuffing to build their nests.

“Every year, countless birds, fish and mammals succumb to complications from encountering human’s discarded trash,” he wrote. “Plastic and fiber items, such as the stuffing in dog toys, can cause intestinal obstruction and death if even accidentally ingested. Birds and mammals can get their feet hung up in fish line and fibrous materials. Unfortunately, much of this material is used in nests, which can cause problems for the young as well.”

We also discussed the dangers and drawbacks of feeding the deer, javelina and other creatures that we love watching around our neighborhoods. Well, maybe not so much the javelina and skunks!

Dr. Tilley added, “You do not want any wildlife to become reliant on your handouts. Javelina become very aggressive and territorial around any food source so feeding them is not good. It is important for all wildlife to maintain their natural foraging instincts and not become dependent on us.”

As for the javelina’s quest for food, they are always on the lookout for a good smelly garbage bin along the road on pick-up day. They can really create a mess. And last year, I set out a couple of bags of food for a food drive and these guys must have been watching me, because looking out a short time later, these critters were totally enjoying the bag’s contents and consuming whole packages of uncooked pasta and rice, and one ran across the road with a whole bag of tortillas hanging out of his mouth, which he then devoured.

Javelina are not my favorite neighbor. I have had a couple of dogs gored with their tusks. It is particularly dangerous when there are babies. They often hide under decks — without us being aware that they are there. It is so important to be vigilant when walking our dogs and to provide secure fencing for them.

Also, I just received my quarterly magazine from the Humane Society of the United States. Among many interesting and heartwarming or heart-breaking articles is a column about feeding hummingbirds. The article stresses these amazing birds’ need for insects. And when the feeders with the sugar water are too abundant, the birds fill up on the liquid and do not get the nutrition they must have from insects. The article adds certain plants to have on your property to provide the insects these birds require in their diets. It mentions specifically salvias, penstemons, monkey flowers and other native species. About 7,000 plant species rely on hummingbirds for pollination.

Lisa Tell, veterinarian and director of the UC Davis Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program, advises: “To do the most good and the least harm, offer plants, avoid pesticides and follow these guidelines for feeders. Mix one part white sugar to four parts water. Place feeders far from windows to prevent bird strikes and clean weekly and more often in warm weather.” Tell adds “if you wouldn’t drink it, then it is not great to offer to them!”

I heard recently that it is not good to put bread crumbs out for the birds. Dr. Tilley agrees that it is not a nutritionally balanced diet but also, bread quickly becomes moldy.

We certainly enjoy the creatures that wander around in our neighborhoods and the amazing variety of birds that fly above us. We need to be constantly aware of how to properly and happily coexist.

A sincere thank you to Dr. Tilley for his valuable input.

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at

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